Myrtle Beach building evacuated upon meth lab discovery - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Meth lab suspects arrested, contaminated apartment remains

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All three men have been charged with possession and manufacture of meth. All three men have been charged with possession and manufacture of meth.
According to Captain David Knipes with the Myrtle Beach Police Department, the building at 609 4th Avenue North has been evacuated. (Source: WMBF Reporter Sean Maginnis) According to Captain David Knipes with the Myrtle Beach Police Department, the building at 609 4th Avenue North has been evacuated. (Source: WMBF Reporter Sean Maginnis)
(Source: WMBF Reporter Sean Maginnis) (Source: WMBF Reporter Sean Maginnis)
(Source: WMBF Reporter Sean Maginnis) (Source: WMBF Reporter Sean Maginnis)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Residents of an apartment building evacuated during a meth lab investigation have been allowed back into their homes.

According to Captain David Knipes with the Myrtle Beach Police Department, multiple fire and rescue crews responded to 4th Avenue North in efforts to clear an active meth lab inside the building.

Knipes says Horry County Fire Rescue along with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department and a Hazmat team responded to the address at 1:23 p.m. Monday.

The Drug Enforcement Unit agent on scene says they made a prior drug arrest unrelated to Monday's investigation at 609 4th Ave. North, but that the suspect cooperated with law enforcement giving them information leading to an investigation of an apartment at the address.

Investigators found materials in the apartment used to make meth in a "shake and bake" style meth lab. This type of meth lab is easier to transport but often less stable and more prone to explode.

DEU officials arrested three suspects in Monday's investigation. Amos Darwin Martin III, 31, 40-year-old Kurt Francis Bennett, and 47-year-old David Scott Sheehan have been arrested.

Dean Bishop with the DEU says they have each been charged with possession and manufacture of a methamphetamine.

SLED agents responded just before 6 p.m. Monday night and removed the material from the apartment unit. Once the material was removed, residents were allowed back into the building.

Jeffrey Mitchem and his wife were shocked to find the road near their home blocked by caution as they returned home Monday afternoon. The pair says they signed a lease on Monday to rent a home directly across the street the apartment where authorities discovered the meth lab, and now they are having second thoughts about the decision.

"One of the reasons we moved out of our neighborhood in Ohio was because they were doing the same thing," Mitchem says. "I'm going to go back and tell my landlord now, in fact - I might not even want to stay here."

Clara Johnson has lived on the corner of 4th Avenue North and North Myrtle Street since 2007, and says she has observed what she believed to be drug activity at the apartment regularly.

"We've seen it going on for such a long time," Johnson says. "You kind of get a feel for what's going on."

Johnson says she and some of her neighbors told police about their concerns at neighborhood watch meetings, and she is happy to authorities cracking down.

"It's wonderful to see all this activity and know they're doing something," Johnson says.

The landlord of the apartment building says he has taken steps to have the residents involved in the drug bust evicted from the property as soon as possible.

While the three suspects are behind bars, the apartment used for the meth lab is still contaminated with chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Those chemicals can be toxic, even fatal, if they aren't properly taken care of.

"It depends on how long they were cooking or what they were doing in the room," said FSA's Steve Kahn. Kahn leads FSA's meth cleanup operations.

While Kahn says the operation is fairly straightforward, anyone cleaning up a contaminated room has to take serious safety precautions.

"We keep track of whose working in there, so we know who was exposed and to what," he said.

Kahn says the cleanup operations are regulated by SLED and DHEC, and the extent of cleaning is all dependant upon how serious the cooking operation was. Some rooms only require walls and carpet cleaning, but some require more.

"They'll request cutting the carpet out, taking the soft goods out, cutting the drapes, bagging them up, and removing them from the premise."

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